20-year sentence for man who fled after running over, killing child

Prosecutor Peter Overstreet (left) questions Kenneth Martinez at trial. Martinez, right, with his attorneys at sentencing.

A judge sentenced a man to 20 years in prison Friday for leaving the scene after he struck and killed a 4-year-old child in a beach parking lot in 2022, State Attorney Larry Basford announced.

Kenneth Ray Martinez, 65, of Panama City Beach, was found guilty Jan. 19 of Leaving the Scene of a Crash Involving Death. Prosecutor Peter Overstreet read prepared statements from the 4-year-old victim’s parents, who were participating via Zoom. The child’s grandmother spoke as well.

Prosecutor Peter Overstreet handled the case and spoke with family members, bottom right, after sentencing Friday.

The 4-year-old victim was killed instantly March 29, 2022, when the defendant’s truck struck her in front of her family and a large number of people in front of Publix on the beach. The defendant, the evidence showed, fled the scene, washed the evidence off his truck and hid in his apartment. When Panama City Beach police tracked him down a short time later he refused to answer the door for over 30 minutes.

Overstreet told Circuit Judge Shonna Young Gay during sentencing that the defendant striking the child was not the action that resulted in his arrest. But he said leaving the scene of the death – a first-degree felony in Florida – and his subsequent actions were “egregious.”

“What was intentional was his choice to leave the scene,” Overstreet said. “He did not care enough to even stop in a parking lot full of people in Panama City Beach during Spring Break in March. He made a decision to leave a 4-year-old child like it was nothing. Like it was nothing.”

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In his statement, the victim’s father said words cannot describe the pain and agony suffered by the family both by the loss and by being witnesses to it. He described his heart as “crushed, shattered, pulverized.” He said he is not the same man he was before the loss, and is facing surgery and a long recovery made worse by the loss.

He said his wife was about 22 weeks pregnant at the time with a boy who was delivered prematreuly at 32 weeks.

“Our daughter was our princess and our prince was on the way,” he said. “On March 29, 2022, that ended” because of a “man who didn’t care.”

His wife, the victim’s mother, said her life will never be the same, she cries daily, and the family will suffer for the rest of their lives.

“I’ve never cried so hard for so much in my life,” she said. “I still cry at night and sometimes I cry myself to sleep … I am not the same person I was.”

Overstreet told Judge Gay this was a case that affected the entire community and asked her to consider the family’s suffering, the defendant’s testimony that did not match the facts during trial, and his lack of remorse prior to sentencing.

“He was willing to lie about just anything he could and that again shows his character, and, as I told the jury, his strained relationship with the truth,” he said.

Basford thanked the Panama City Beach Police Department, the multiple agencies that assisted in the search for the defendant and the ensuing investigation, and the multiple State Attorney’s Office personnel who dedicated themselves to the case for their work in seeking justice for the victim’s family.

For more information, contact Mike Cazalas at mike.cazalas@sa14.fl.gov, or call 850-381-7454.